LONGFORD, Nicholas (c.1532-1610), of Longford, Derbys.
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Family and Education
b. c.1532, 1st s. of Sir Ralph Longford of Longford by Dorothy, da. of Sir Anthony Fitzherbert of Norbury. educ. Pembroke, Camb. 1550; I. Temple 1553. m. (1) Elizabeth, da. of Ralph Okeover of Okeover, Staffs., at least 1s.; (2) Martha, da. of (Sir) Robert Southwell† of Mereworth, Kent, ?s.p. suc. fa. 1544.1
Sheriff, Derbys. 1568-9.
Longford’s family was already of some antiquity in Derbyshire and Lancashire. One of his sisters, Maud, or Magdalene, married (Sir) George Vernon†, a friend of George, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, and subsequently the puritan, (Sir) Francis Hastings I, brother of the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon.2
Longford himself remains relatively obscure on account of his Catholicism, which led him into recusancy as Elizabeth’s reign progressed. His election as a knight of the shire for Derbyshire in 1559 is not surprising in the light of his own position in the county and the importance of his connexions, but apart from his term as sheriff in 1568-9, and his appointment on another occasion as a commissioner to assess the value of the lands and goods of John Sacheverell, a Catholic who had fled abroad, he apparently never gained any position in county government.3
Longford’s religious beliefs eventually got him into trouble. In September 1581 the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury was ordered to send him to London, if he was in a fit condition to travel, while in 1585 Humphrey Bridges, a former servant of Longford, accused him of having a secret correspondence with Mary Queen of Scots. She had written, Bridges claimed, urging Longford to be steadfast in his religion, promising to make him a duke and to make his chaplain archbishop of Canterbury, when she attained power. As a result Longford was again called before the Privy Council in London, and was committed to the Marshalsea in June 1585. He seems to have been still under observation in London in 1587. In September of that year he was allowed to return to Derbyshire for 3 months. Longford was not, however, without influential friends at court. John Manners, writing to Gilbert Talbot, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, in 1592, concerning recusants in Derbyshire, noted that there were no gentlemen ‘of reckoning now resident in this shire, that for recusancy, either are to be disarmed or committed which I can have intelligence of, except Mr. Longford, with whom we did not deal at the last time, by reason of a letter he procured from the late lord chancellor [Christopher Hatton I] for his discharge’.4
By the end of 1594, however, Longford had apparently conformed. In a letter to Robert Cecil he stated that he had been satisfied by some of his learned friends regarding his former scruples, and he had already attended divine service ‘in divers public presences’. ‘My suit is’, he added, ‘that as you have power so you will help to deliver me from those former dangers and troubles I have incurred by my recusancy’. Under the laxer régime of James I’s early years he seems to have reverted to Catholicism. His name is included in a list of unconvicted recusants, drawn up in 1609.5
It is impossible to assess the full effect of his recusancy on his estates, but there are some indications that he was forced to borrow money and sell land. A loan of £300 from the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury in 1591 led to a Chancery suit in which Longford accused the Earl of retaining the land which had been pledged as security, although the money had been repaid. In 1595 he was engaged in negotiating the sale of some lands in the manor of Withington, Lancashire, with Robert Cecil for £1,750. The sale was still incomplete in November 1596, Longford apparently being unwilling to complete it. Cecil wrote to a Thomas Thacker, who was negotiating on Longford’s behalf, that he looked to ‘be better satisfied than to be thus juggled withal by him or you’. Cecil required Longford to come to London ‘upon this my sending to him in courtesy, which if he shall forbear or trifle with me in, I know some better reason to fetch him up in another manner’. The sale was eventually concluded. In 1597 Longford requested to be released from his privy seal for the government demand for a loan of £20, as he could find no one to lend him the money. Nothing more has been ascertained about Longford, who died, apparently s.p. in 1610.6
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Author: A. M. Mimardière
- 1. C142/68/53; Genealogist, n.s. viii. 18. (This pedigree incorrectly shows two of Longford’s sisters as his daughters); CPR, 1553, p. 263; PCC 20 Dyngeley, 53 Mellershe, 19 Holney.
- 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 462; OR, i. 360; PCC 28 Morrison; DNB (Hastings, Sir Francis).
- 3. CPR, 1563-6, p. 260.
- 4. APC, xiii. 97; xv. 220-1; SP12/176/65, 65(1); Cath. Rec. Soc. ii. 240; Coll. of Arms, Talbot mss H, f. 415.
- 5. HMC Hatfield, v. 31; CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, pp. 519-20.
- 6. C2Eliz./L1/26; HMC Hatfield, V. 23, 276-7; CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, p. 514; HMC Rutland, i. 342; Ct. Leet Recs. Manchester 1586-1602 (Chetham Soc. lxv), 40, n. 23.